How (and why) Digital Diploma Mills (don't) Work: Academic Freedom, Intellectual Property Rights, Automation and UBC's Master of Educational Technology Program

  • Stephen Petrina
Keywords: automation of education, digital diploma mills


In the early 21st century, an expansion of educational markets implies automation, social polarization or stratification, and corporatization. These processes, among others, govern initiatives to exploit the economics of the corporate university. Within are three compelling issues facing higher education: academic freedom, intellectual property rights (IPRs), and revenues. In Digital Diploma Mills, David Noble describes two practices underwriting these issues. The first is commercialization via corporate exploitation of research, licensing and the reassignment of IPRs (i.e., copyrights, patents and trade secrets). The second is commodification via the automation of curriculum and instruction (C&I) and the unbundling of IPRs (i.e., copyrights). This article provides detailed insights into the machinations of a digital diploma mill and, like Noble, explains its operation through the political economy of automation. What is an automated course author? How do digital diploma mills work?